Autonomous Invasive Defense Strategy
Oberlin had himself propped up, halfway between sitting and reclining, when the kid walked in. He had expected the kid to be young, but he was surprised, pleasantly so, by just how young he actually was.
Oberlin pressed a button. The bed adjusted itself with a low hum to sit him all the way up. Aside from the bed, Oberlin’s room at the hospice didn’t look like a medical facility. The walls were not a bland shade of beige and the floors were not linoleum tile. Instead it looked like a room in some wealthy family’s estate, with hardwood floors and deep green paint on the walls.
Still, the kid looked around uncomfortably when he entered, as if he could see that it was little more than the hole Oberlin had chosen to crawl into before dying.
Finally looking at the emaciated old man that sat propped up on the bed, the kid extended his left hand and said, “Hi, Dr. Oberlin. I’m Craig Monroe.”
Oberlin lifted a hand feebly while he looked the kid up and down. He wore a dingy white shirt and plain black tie, faded blue jeans, and a pair of canvas sneakers. His sleeves were rolled halfway up his forearms, and the black of a tattoo peaked out from each. His eyes were brown and expectant. His hair, also brown, was just slightly unkempt. He had a canvas messenger bag slung over one shoulder.
“I can’t believe you called me of all people,” Monroe said. “The Examiner isn’t exactly The Times.”
“That’s why I called you. I saw the story you wrote about the C.I.A. working with drug dealers in order to secure funding without having to justify their use of tax dollars.”
“You must be one of three people who actually read it.”
“It’s not the kind of story The Times likes to run,” Oberlin said with a faint smile.
“Not at all. The major news outlets ignore much of the real news,” Monroe said.
“Exactly,” Oberlin said. For a moment his eyes seemed to flash, as if there was more life in him than his shriveled up body implied. Then it faded away and his eyes were left looking glassy and sick. “I’ve got a story to tell…one that needs to be told to the whole world. I don’t have much longer, and I want to tell someone that I can trust to pursue the truth.”
“I’m your man, doctor. But what exactly is this about?”
“I’m dying,” Oberlin said with a faint smile, “of a respiratory infection that an infant’s immune system could fight off.”
“AIDS?” Monroe asked.
Oberlin nodded. “Killed by the very monster I helped to create.”
“What?” Monroe’s eyes opened wide for a moment.
“It was the very start of the cold war,” Oberlin started.
Monroe reached into his bag and pulled out a small, grey tape recorder.
Oberlin flashed his ghost of a smile again and said, “I’ll start over.”